As winter finally loosens its grip on the Big Land, many of us are watching as the last remaining ice patches finally give us the open water we have been waiting for.
It’s time for folks who are eager to get on the water to uncover their boats and get them ready for another season.
This is always an eagerly-anticipated process as we get our hands on something that actually means that spring has finally arrived.
This annual “getting ready” event requires attention. We have our families, spouses, children, grandchildren, friends and neighbours all climbing onboard to share time on the water. Making sure we all have everything need for a safe boating trip is a big responsibility and should never be taken lightly.
A boat operator’s course is the law, you have to have it. If you don’t have this course completed yet, get it done. It’s easy, and you can access it online.
If you don’t have a computer, seek technical support from a friend. I know there are some among us who have been operating boats safely for years, but there is none among us who is too old or too smart to not learn something of value that could save lives by doing the course.
There are a number of things we all must do before we launch our boats.
More by Gary Shaw:
Some of these things are law and they are all common sense.
Check the boat for even the smallest leak and do whatever it takes to fix it. Also check your plug for rot in the rubber and be sure that the locking clip is solidly locked in and the fit is airtight.
Make sure your motor is in good running order. New plugs are always a good idea and if you didn’t change the gear oil in your foot when you put it the motor away in the fall, do it before the first launch in the spring.
If you have battery power for starting and running pumps and lights, be sure you are fully charged and you have your battery stored in closed containers to shelter and protect the terminals from getting a smack.
Paddles or oars are a must and having enough rope onboard for tie off or towing is also a necessary requirement.
Also check your trailer, lights, wheel bearings and safety chains at the hitch; important checks to having a safe and trouble-free day.
Make sure you have your bailing bucket onboard. For those who have bilge pumps, make sure they are in good working order and your lines are clear for easy flow.
Always have a noise-making device — a loud whistle or a canned air horn — to signal that you need help. Flares are required in boats of a certain size. Check the regulations and be sure to comply. Regardless of the regulations on boat size, flares are a good idea; stranded is stranded no matter how big your boat is.
This is a big one: personal floatation devices, life jackets for all, is of critical importance.
Make sure that all life jackets fit the wearer, and falls under the maximum weight limits of the person wearing it. Most importantly, don’t sit on it, wear it; it won’t save your life if you fall overboard without it.
At the end of the day, whether you are in the boat for transportation to and from your cabin, or are out fishing all day, basic safety checks, the necessary gear and the common sense required to be responsible boat operators will go a long ways to having a good summer on the water.